EDI: How Clubs are Being Part of the Conversation
Listening to both learn and unlearn is a profound first step for clubs into the world of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), according to Farel Hruska.
As the director of education and culture at Chuze Fitness with locations in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico, Hruska said like any club, Chuze doesn’t have all the answers. But what she realized they could do was to start the conversation and be willing to mess up along the way.
“We’re going to mess up, but the biggest mess up would to be to do nothing at all,” said Hruska. “The trepidation is there, I understand it. It might be uncomfortable; do it anyway.”
After Ahmaud Arbery was murdered on February 23, 2020, Chuze Fitness felt it wasn’t doing enough. Hruska said they had thought they were doing well with 50% of their workforce coming from underrepresented populations. However, what the company really needed was to be part of the solution for EDI.
Creating Focus Groups
As such, Chuze Fitness created focus groups for conversations revolving around EDI. Hruska said they reached out to Black teammates and began asking questions:
- What’s it like working for Chuze?
- How have we handled EDI within your journey as an employee?
- What is it like to be in your community?
- What are some experiences you can share?
- What can we be doing more of and where do we need to pivot?
“We got very raw, very fast,” said Hruska. “We’ve realized we all have blind spots, and unfortunately, without someone checking us or just checking ourselves, we’re going to continue to stay in that space.”
“The Board was one of our solutions to empower and amplify the diverse voices within our organization to help us understand how and where we can do better,” said Aaron Moore, the director of operations at VIDA Fitness with locations in Washington, D.C. and Virginia.
There are seven specifics the Board will focus on:
- Review the diversity of the team and company as a whole.
- Advise and inform VIDA Fitness on matters regarding discrimination, equity and inclusion involving the team.
- Serve as a liaison between team members and their managers/Human Resources.
- Help develop and execute semi-annual and companywide diversity training for staff.
- Work with the marketing and communications team to ensure EDI has been considered.
- Organize at least once per quarter a community event or initiative centered around EDI.
- Work with VIDA Fitness to develop measurable ways to engage improvised, underserved and underprivileged neighborhoods in the local community to increase fitness, wellness and nutrition resource access.
Like Hruska, Moore said accountability is key to invoking change, as is listening to employees, members and any other groups of people you serve.
In fact, Moore noted you need to:
- Ask, “Who is underrepresented in general or in leadership positions within your organization?” Then find out why this is by speaking to individuals.
- Ask, “Is your marketing/messaging inclusive?” If not, get help from those who have expertise in leading organizations to become more inclusive in communications.
Marketing messaging might not be the only thing in need of revamping. Hruska said clubs also must look at accessibility to different populations via location, price, etc. “Have we created a space where there is accessibility so folks from any walk of life feel as if they can be there,” said Hruska. “I think as an industry we can do better.”
Educate Yourself on EDI
Beyond operations, both Moore and Hruska said self-awareness is key. Whether it’s seeking out resources — Moore suggested watching the Emmanuel Acho video series “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” — or deep diving into Black history in America, one must educate himself/herself.
“It’s not up to our black friends and colleagues to teach us — that’s not their job,” said Hruska. “So, do the work to educate ourselves. We all have Google, we all have ways we can learn, and then recognize that — as hard as it is to say — it isn’t ever going to be enough, but it’s important to start and to keep down that path.”
In fact, Hruska stressed the company’s focus on EDI isn’t a one-time, temporary thing coinciding with Black History Month. It’s something they plan to keep focusing on at Chuze.
This is the case for VIDA as well. Both organizations are asking questions, forming groups for accountability and having the tough conversations in order to move from being not just not racist, but being anti-racist.
“I keep hearing, ‘Well, now is the time.’ It’s past the time. We should have been at this work a long time ago,” said Hruska. “We have a foot on the gas pedal; we’re not going to let up.”